What no one tells you about traveling

I’ve been getting terrible at posting in a timely manner cause it’s so easy to neglect this blog and just travel but I realized when I don’t write things down I don’t spend time reflecting on my experiences and forgot a lot of details. I still have to write down my memories of Myanmar and Phillipines but it’s pretty crazy to think that almost 5 months have gone by. I don’t know where all the time went!

This post is a semi-procrastination post to write about what I went through in the past few months. At a certain point while traveling, there’s a switch in your lifestyle where traveling becomes your life and not just a vacation anymore. It’s a weird change because I didn’t realize it was happening – I was just living day by day but I knew something was slightly off. Looking back at my first few posts reminds me of how I felt and how I saw the world so differently. I was so excited about every waterfall, every cave, every new face, every conversation and every new road traveled. But just like everything else, it’s natural for travel to lose it’s novelty. Don’t get me wrong – I still love this life and would quit my job again in an instant, but I just wanted to offer some advice for anyone else feeling this way.

My family and friends think that my life is an easy beach lifestyle but there are still hard days. There was a day I lost my entire wallet with all my important documents and spent hours backtracking my steps to find it again. There was another day where the bus driver lost my bag with my passport inside. Another day where I missed my flight and the airline crew was so unhelpful, I had to buy a whole new ticket. Another day where my money was stolen from my bag. Many days where I got blatantly ripped off just because I’m a tourist. Many more days where I missed the last bus, last ferry, last jeepney and had to deal with it, find a place to stay for the night, and move on with it the next morning. Hard days suck out here because the only person that can deal with the problem is me. Actually, the world is surprisingly full of beautiful people that offered a helping hand every time I was in need of help, but I still have to assume that I only have myself to rely on. Anyway, my point is that travel lifestyle is not always amazing. There are gonna be a bunch of shitty days. There are gonna be terrible people in the world that ruin your day. But one thing that you can count on is that you will learn to adapt to any situation. You will really understand the meaning of “if there is a problem, there is always a solution.” You will become tougher and stronger than you already are.

But of course there are consequences for these changes. While you’re experiencing all these changes, you don’t actually realize you’re going through them. You’re just living your life. For me, I got really burnt out after three months of traveling so quickly. I was moving from hostel to hostel, carrying my backpack around for many hours, and constantly meeting new faces. For the first three months, I never took the time to relax at one single location and get to know the people and the place. I wanted to see everything that I thought I “had” to see in the country and then move on. For example, I missed the drunk river tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos and I was really bummed about it. I wish someone had told me in the beginning to go slow. Don’t rush it. Let yourself enjoy a place until you’re ready to go. If you really like a place, then just stay – there’s no need to move on. So for all you new travellers out there, move slowly – really, really slowly. There’s no need to rush anything at all. There’s also nothing wrong with doing nothing at all for a day, or a few days, to regenerate your energy. You will have days you don’t want to do anything but watch netflix. Do it! Take a day to reconnect with your friends from home. They’re an important part of your life! Take a day to really get to know someone. There are really good people that can surprise you. Everyone knows something that you don’t know – learn from them! And if you miss a top destination in a country because you felt the need to go somewhere else or if you spent too much time somewhere else, it’s okay! Don’t linger about it. You can go back another time. The time you spent somewhere else means so much more than just passing through another attraction. There are amazing things to see and experience everywhere and where you travel through is your own unique story. And if you find yourself not being as excited about exploring as you once were, think back to how beautiful everything was to you when you first started. The world is still just as beautiful – the only thing that changed was your perspective. You may have seen the most beautiful waterfall and think that all other waterfalls are shit. They’re not! Each waterfall is unique and beautiful in it’s own way. There is always, always something else out there that will take your breath away so don’t stop looking for them! Keep exploring! 🙂

That time I fell in love with Cambodia pt. 2

Leaving Kampot was so sad but the people I left with were such a funny and easy going group that it made it much easier. We bought a bottle of whiskey and coke for the road and headed to Otres Beach! I finally found another whiskey lover and that’s really rare to find out here! The ride was 2 hours but felt like 30 minutes. We arrived at Stray Cats Hostel and went to watch the sunset at the beach. If you’re in the area, skip Sihanoukville and come straight to Otres. The beach has a little water park which honestly should be included in every beach. For just $2 you can spend as long as you want here!

It just so happened that Regan was also here so we met up for the third time. We were both going to leave to other cities but there was a jungle party the next day so we decided to stay. The jungle party was alright – I wasn’t really feeling the music but it was a pretty cool set up. There was a Ferris wheel, the fastest and most unsafe Ferris wheel I’ve been on but that made it super fun! It was a cool little race located in the middle of the jungle. 

The next day we decided to head to Koh Rong Samloem together. This island was my definition of paradise. Perfect beaches and not so touristy. I highly recommend coming here and staying at Huba Huba in sunset beach. You have to either take a ferry that stops at sunset beach or you can hike 30 minutes through the jungle to get there. Might be a little difficult with your backpack or luggage but this 65 year old man did it, so you can too! 

After settling in, we headed to the beach and met a hilarious couple from California. They invited us to use their jet ski and their boat and then offered us some hash from an inhaler! Never saw that before so how could I resist?! The rest of the day was so chilled out, mostly because of the hash. It was so nice to have no distractions, aka no wifi, so we could catch up on our journaling. We met some people in our dorm room on the way to go in the water so we asked if we could join. Guess what was in the water?! MORE GLOWING PLANKTON! It was such a beautiful night especially because the group had snorkels with them so we could see them so much clearer. We ended our night with a bonfire and some tribal music – a girl was leaving the island and they were having a party for her! What a perfect first day in paradise.

The next day Regan and I wanted to go hiking to see more of the island. A lovely British girl, Helena, joined us and the three of us walked around the jungle, getting lost a few times but hey if you don’t care where you’re going you can’t really get lost! That night Regan and I slept in a tent on the beach which was super cool! And cheap, also. Only $10 between both of us! In the morning I unzipped my curtain and found a shit load of rat shit around my bookbag, and was thinking that it was weird it was only really around my bookbag. No big deal right? I brushed it off and found that the motherfucker bit right through my bag to get my banana chips. The stupid chips that I knew I wasn’t going to eat but saved because I’m too cheap to waste it!!!!! So the damn rat ruined my bag and then took a shit all over it. Thank god duck tape did the trick! For now.

Our last day on the island was spent snorkeling and seeing some weird cuttlefish. They look like aliens!! We swam for about 2 hours because we went too far and it took us longer to get back that we thought it would! Our backs were so sunburnt but at least we got some exercise in. We did nothing but eat for the last few days. If you guys wanna experience an untouched beach, amazing food, and a simple lifestyle for a few days then come to Koh Rong Samloem!

That time I fell in love with Cambodia

I couldn’t decide after my month back in the states whether I wanted to see the rest of Laos or the rest of Cambodia. I chose Cambodia because it was simply easier to get to and more importantly, easier on my wallet. But wow I couldn’t have made a better choice if I had planned it. People say that everything happens for a reason but this is the first time I’ve really lived it and felt just how real that saying is. I’ve met the most amazing people and have clicked so well with them I know they’ll be lifelong friends. Maybe it’s cause it’s the first time I stayed in one spot for so long and felt that it was hard to leave. Nonetheless, I’m glad I chose Cambodia and I wouldn’t trade my second time back for the world.

I headed to Phnom Penh first even though many people say it’s a shit city and there’s nothing good about it. I totally disagree! Someone put it in perfect words for me- even if a place is shit, you’re in another COUNTRY! You’re in fucking Cambodia and you get the privilege to explore another city, so no matter how shitty it is learn to appreciate the fact that so many people want to but can’t. Take advantage of wherever you are and make the best of it because you are in control of your own happiness and the outcome of your experiences. 

Here, you’ll learn about the killing fields and the S21 torture chambers that took place during the genocide under Polpot’s reign from 1975-1979. Being able to walk through the museum and the killing fields is eerie, emotional, and disturbing. But it has to be seen so that the people of Cambodia can get their story out into the world! Harvard estimated 3.3 million people killed during these four years. It’s terrifying how the world didn’t know about a genocide taking place when it was only 40 years ago, and even more terrifying that history repeated itself and there are still genocides going on! I would suggest going to S21 first to see what the people went through before getting thrown in the killing fields. Warning – it’s a damn emotional day so bring tissues with you!

S21 was previously a high school but was turned into a torture prison where people were taken to be tortured until they admitted they were traitors of the new regime, even though they weren’t actually traitors. Many of the people brought in were lied to, and told they were offered new jobs as a teacher so they willingly came. They tried to explain they were not traitors, but it was useless because Polpot didn’t care – he was going to kill them anyway. It got so out of hand that these innocent people would admit to treason just so they wouldn’t be tortured. Polpot had a vision for Cambodia to become a farming country and so anyone with an education, who wore glasses, or who was somehow affiliated with the old regime, was taken here and forced to confess to their “crimes.” I personally couldn’t spend a lot of time in the S21 cells because it was too hard to see it. The actual chains that these cruel men used to lock the prisoners up are still there. The metal beds they were electrocuted on are still present in the classrooms. The blood from these prisoners are still stained in the floor. The vivid pictures in the museum capture their sorrow that is all too real. And the vibe in the prison is so overpoweringly negative. The killing fields is just as eerie. Today it is a museum where you get a headset and walk around to get a glimpse of what had happened. These two places opened my eyes and made me realize how little I really know about what’s happening in the world and made me realize how cruel people can actually be. The most shocking thing for me, and many others, was the killing tree, where babies were taken by the legs and swung on the trees until their skulls were bashed in. Polpot had a belief that in order to get rid of someone you need to take them out by the roots, so he would kill everyone in the family to prevent anyone taking revenge on him. Really disgusting man. As heavy as these places sound, it’s really worth going to because it will change the way you view Cambodia and will give you a different type of respect for the people and country.

Skulls of the victims

Okay so other than Phnom Penh, the rest of Cambodia is not so heavy! It’s seriously magical place as long as you give it a chance because many people say they don’t like it! Well that’s cause they didn’t stay long enough to find out how wonderful it is! My next stop was Kampot. It’s funny because this wasn’t even really on my list of destinations – I was only going to stay for 2 days but ended up getting stuck here for such a long time and meeting the most INCREDIBLE people, and one really special guy! Kampot is a town in southern Cambodia that sits on along a river filled with magical bioluminescent plankton. I wrote about these for my night dive experience but Kampot’s plankton blew Thailand’s plankton out of the water! (#punintended) When you guys go to Kampot there is no better place to stay than Hightide. The name really says it all – you will come here and the best people will greet you with a joint and a beer and the rest is history! My first two days was spent on a hammock just straight up chillen and enjoying life. There are also so many things to do here you will never be bored. It’s a really small town so you quickly get acquainted with everyone and there’s always something going on! If not it’s a sure bet that Hightide will provide some form of entertainment. 

That time Ian drank himself to sleep and didn’t make it back to his room.

Bokor National Park is an awesome place to explore, and will definitely take you more than one day to explore it all. Rent a bike and drive up the mountain for an amazing view at the viewpoint and at the abandoned casino. Craig and I explored Bokor two days in a row and still haven’t seen it all. We stumbled upon a massive hotel with a huge spa, a huge reception area, a huge dining area, and literally like 10 guests. Behind this massive waste of space and money, there was an amusement park/arcade looking building with a clown’s mouth as the entrance. We looked inside thinking we would find something fun, but it ended up being an office building with a full staff of about 40-50 people. What the fuck do they need that many workers for when the place is deserted?! Maybe it was a secret agent building. Who knows. Super strange. The whole national park has a strange feel to it because there are so many buildings that have started construction but never finished. It’s a palette for graffiti artists now so it adds a cool touch and is fun for photo shoots!

About an hour drive away from Kampot is a city called Kep where you can eat fresh seafood, grilled right in front of you. Crabs are caught straight from the ocean for just $1 each. Such a good deal and super delicious. There are also monkeys along the way but be careful because they will steal your shit! When you drive past Kep, there is a cave with a natural swimming pool inside and a great view on the top. It’s also a really nice spot to smoke a joint and enjoy the view!

Leaving Kampot was such a sad day. I made friends with so many good people, many of whom are still there almost 2 months later because it’s that easy to fall in love with the place. I got my first tattoo here with my favorite people in Kampot right before I left so they will always be with me! On my last day, I met some people going in the same direction as me so we shared a cab and shared a bottle of whiskey for the ride. That was the most fun transit I’ve ever experienced in Asia – so fun that I ended up staying with the group for two more days! The perfect way to leave a place you love is to leave with amazing people who make it easier to move on.

Lao-ways Stay Young!

So my friends from home had left Thailand and after spending a week with them it was time to part ways and go to Laos! Solo traveler once again…for about 3 hours. The bus picked up more passengers from Chiang Rai and that’s when I made my first travel companion, Pablo from Germany. We spoke for about 30 minutes before we decided we wanted to travel together. He was taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang and I was staying on the bus, but we were going to meet two days later and start our journey.

Meet Pablo!

The bus smelled like absolute shit. It makes sense since it was a total of 21 hours. The bathroom stench was so strong that I thought the smell came from me at one point. We stopped in the middle of the night to grab dinner and we were all so excited to get away from the bus, until we got off the bus. It smelled even worse outside! Like rotting bodies were everywhere. Really appetizing! When we finally got to LP we walked to our hostel and waited outside until it opened. 

The first two days were spent visiting waterfalls. Best waterfalls I’ve ever seen – so much so that no other waterfalls have been worth seeing afterwards. These waterfalls resemble rice paddies in that they have kaskading levels throughout. Kuang Si Waterfalls is the more popular one with a black bear sanctuary, and a hike up to a lagoon and cave. But Tad Sae Waterfalls was better in my opinion because you were able to explore any part of the waterfalls which means less people around you. A group of us climbed through the different levels and just chased the sun around while giving ourselves mud baths.

When Pablo arrived we left Luang Prabang and went on our way to Nong Khiao, a small town in the north of Laos. We stayed at Sunset Bungalows and had an amazing view of the Nam Ou River. Not a river for swimming unless you wanna risk jumping into shit colored water but it was beautiful nonetheless. This town was so peaceful and easy to explore. There are so many sandy pathways through fields of greenery and rivers! Laos nature was the best I’ve ever seen in my life. I walked around for hours, in complete awe of my surroundings. There was a man farming in a wheat field so I walked over to ask him where Pha Tok Cave was. He offered to bring me through the back so I didn’t have to pay the entrance fee. So nice! Just kidding – nothing is ever free. After he took me to the entrance he requested that I pay him money. Never forget that when you travel Asia! There definitely are genuinely nice people here but you also have to understand these people think that because you’re a foreigner that money comes easy for you. And it does, at least compared to them! So if someone does you a solid, then give a little money to them because it may go a long way for them! And if you don’t want to feel ripped off, then just remind yourself that an act of kindness here probably won’t be free and decline their help. I’ve met a lot of travelers who have gotten scammed a lot, including myself so I can understand being skeptical of locals. But it’s not always a scam. If they help you out, help them out a little too!

I walked through these caves and an immediately felt chills flow through my spine. This cave was a hiding spot for local people to escape the bombs dropped by America. You can see trenches where people hid and bullet holes along the walls of the cave. Not many people know that Laos is the most bombed country in the entire world. America dropped a shit ton of bombs on Laos during the Vietnam/American War and denied it, because America suspected that Vietnam had a trade tunnel going through Laos to get weapons and supplies to Southern Vietnam. They were right, but they didn’t know where the tunnel exactly was, so they bombed many parts of the country. One third of these bombs are still active in Laos which means that today, there is at least one person injured or killed everyday by bombs. In Vang Vieng, you can hear bombs being detonated in the distance by machines. It’s pretty insane what we don’t know about the world until we see it for ourselves.

When Pablo felt better, we decided to hike up to a sunset point but instead of coming back down the same day, we slept on the top of the mountain and enjoyed a really lovely night. It was fucking freezing but definitely worth it. We started hiking up the mountain with our huge backpacks filled with warm clothes and essentials, with only 40 minutes until sunset. The hike is normally 1 and a half hours. It was not an easy hike up but we made it just in time and yes, it was totally worth it!!! Bring beer and whiskey to keep yourself warm if you decide to do this. When the sunset we watched the stars and the Milky Way for a few hours before passing out and waking up to a sunrise and making our way back down.

My last stop in Laos was Vang Vieng, before Pablo and I parted ways and I headed back into Thailand. Vang Vieng is so naturally beautiful – it’s filled with picturesque landscapes, mountains and greenery! The view outside our guesthouse was fantastic and it wasn’t even the best view. One of the days was spent motorbiking outside of Laos and hiking up mountains and through caves to get to awesome viewpoints. Another couple of hard hikes that were so worth it! I wasn’t expecting the hikes to be hard so I went in flip flops but I highly recommend real shoes. It would be much easier! The main attraction in Vang Vieng is river tubing paired with day drinking but I didn’t do that – there’s always next time though!

On my last night, Pablo and I went to a bar with another friend and the three of us ordered a joint from their hilarious “secret” menu which offers a load of different substances that come in the form of omelettes, pancakes, shakes and etc. We’re poor and can’t afford much so we settled for a 10,000 kip joint, approximately $1.25. You aren’t allowed to smoke it in the bar area so be prepared to be lead into a small closet filled with clothes and blankets. Pretty unique experience and a really great last memory of Laos!

The best week of my life

Yup I’m still in Thailand even though I was least excited about this country, I somehow stayed here the longest and even cut my trip to Laos short to return. So after Jo left I traveled up to Koh Tao to get my scuba diving license. The island used to be inhabited by turtles which is where the name comes from (Tao = turtle), but is now inhabited by divers and bars.

There are roughly 70 different dive schools on the island which can make it difficult to choose which school to go with, but I went with Big Blue Diving because it was recommended by a friend. Like most schools on the island, Big Blue offered free accomodation for the length of my course plus an extra day afterwards to relax. Accomodation is free so don’t expect much if you come here. Food is so good, but pretty expensive if you’re on a backpacker budget. A lot of us would walk to the 711 down the road to get food, water and of course, liquor!

I cannot even explain how happy and free I was this week. My life for 6 days was spent as a scuba diver – I lived and literally breathed scuba for 6 days straight to the point where I didn’t know what to do with myself after. It was super hard for me to leave and I definitely would have stayed longer but my dive family had left the same day I did and it just wouldn’t have been the same without them. Our group had four people, including me, and it was the first time I spent so much time with the same group of people. Luckily, we all enjoyed each other’s company (I hope)! Oh and before I forget, if you can request an instructor, get Liam Kelly. Awesome, awesome, awesome instructor, besides the fact that he’s got bad luck at spotting whale sharks.

During my first visit in Koh Tao, I got the SSI open water and advanced certifications. The first 2 days are boring. You watch videos, do homework (yes, I willingly did homework while on vacation), practice some skills in the pool and finally you take an exam. Once you pass, which you should because it’s idiot proof, you’re ready to go on your first dive! Each dive was better than the last because you learn more about your diving skills and become increasingly confident each time. The feeling of being completely submerged underwater and sharing moments with my dive buddies was seriously pure bliss. Some people say it’s even therapeutic! 

Open water is cool, yes. But if you guys want to experience the cool stuff, you gotta go for your advanced certification. With advanced, you get 5 more dives that improve your skill sets. We did 6 dives because we had a package deal that brought us to Sail Rock for an extra fun dive. Our advance course included a night dive, 30 meter dive, navigation dive, fish identification dive and buoyancy dive. Some dives were definitely more challenging because of the conditions of the water – the visibility was shit for our 30 meter dive, which meant I could not see my instructor and could only see the fins of my two buddies in front of me. At one point during the dive I thought I had lost everyone around me and started panicking because I probably should have paid better attention to Liam when he told us what to do if you’ve lost your group. Whoops! Thankfully my dive buddy has a strong set of lungs and managed to scream my name underwater. He ended being right above me, laughing because he watched me freaking out alone. So as if that wasn’t already stressing me out enough, when we reached 30 meters we were supposed to land on our knees and finish some skills but I landed on a sea urchin. Those things really hurt!! I realize I might not be selling this so well right now. Don’t worry, not everyone is as clumsy as I am. Even after all that happened, it ended up being one of my favorite dives because when we swam around the corner of Sail Rock, we literally saw the light and the visibility changed from 4 meters to 25 meters. We swam towards it and we’re surrounded by barracuda, trevally, batfish, angel fish, and so much more. It wasn’t just a few fish here and there, we were literally surrounded by a circle of thousands of fish, from as far down as I could see to as far up as I could see. This was one of the top 5 mesmerizing moments of my life and my words aren’t doing justice in explaining it. It was one of those moments where I was at a lost for words and all I felt was gratefulness and happiness.

Another top dive? The night dive. Not gonna lie, I was nervous for this dive because well…it means all you have to help your vision is a dinky flashlight. When we went under, you can’t see anything behind you, next to you, or below you. All you can see is what you shine your flashlight on. We saw Myrtle the Turtle sleeping and then going up to catch a breath of air, a barracuda, sea urchins moving but the coolest thing was bioluminescent plankton. There was one point when Liam had us turn our flashlights to our bodies so there was no light at all. We started to wave our hand around and all these tiny plankton started to light up neon green. It was a scene straight out of Life of Pi. So damn cool!!!

Thailand is the cheapest place in the world to get certified but that doesn’t mean the quality is affected. Go to Big Blue to get certified! They’re the best of the best and the instructors there are amazing. I missed it so much I went back a month later to get my Stress and Rescue certification!

Carefree in Thailand

As a traveler if you learn to appreciate and embrace the act of being spontaneous, you’ll experience the reward for not planning your activities. Joling and I traveled through Thailand together and although she had an idea of what she wanted to see, 90% of her plans changed – in a good way! Most of our days started off uncertain that we were going to do anything worth writing about but I can honestly say that every day turned out to be so amazing.

We started our trip in Chiang Mai after Debbie left us for two days in Pai. We went on a two day hike west of Chiang Mai, where we started the day off bathing elephants, then started a 3 hour hike up to a village in the mountain, slept in a hut with 19 people, and lastly hiked backed down the next morning. We had a lot of time with the elephants since we were the last group of the day. We learned about their upbringing and upkeep in Thailand and although the company marketed the tour to be an elephant sanctuary, I’m not convinced they should even be a tourist attraction. Elephants are smart – they remember everything. The babies are taken away from their mothers right at birth otherwise they would become aggressive, as they should be in the wild. The elephant caretaker spent 30 minutes explaining why hitting them with sticks is acceptable when really it’s not at all humane. While I admit I loved feeding and playing with them, I wouldn’t say I’m proud of adding to the fund of keeping them out of the wild. We did get to see an elephant scratching his bum on another elephant though. So cute!

Before this trip I did not enjoy hiking whatsoever. I didn’t see the fun in walking up a mountain, stopping every now and then to catch my breath. But Asia has opened up a new door that allowed me to appreciate all the peaks I’ve reached and even all the mosquito bites I’ve endured to get there. We hiked through banana trees, orange trees, jungles and villages until we finally reached the top where we met the rest of our group for a nice warm dinner and a few cold beers. Our group got along so well and the night was filled with so much laughter and easy conversation. It’s amazing to be able to communicate with anyone across the world, whether it’s through language or hand gestures. Joling always says that talking to another person, whether it’s for a minute or for 10 hours, allows you to learn and give so much knowledge. It’s so true – anyone you talk to has so much to offer, as long as you’re willing to listen. All 19 of us slept in a little hut and got real cozy, except for Joling who is on another nomadic level and decided to bring her blanket outside on the dirt path to stare at the stars. At 5am, the animals decided to sing for us every 5 seconds and wake us up. It felt like we were on old MacDonald’s farm where the roosters cockadoodledooed, pigs oinked and dogs barked. Staying in this hut and seeing how the villagers lived was humbling. The showers couldn’t even be considered showers. There was a large bucket of water with a ladle where you had to clean yourself in the cold, and then continuously pour even colder water on yourself until the soap was gone.

The next morning we hiked to a waterfall and watched a few people in our group jump into the waterfall. I wanted to jump but was scared at the same time so I went to the cliff to look at how far the jump was but everyone cheered and yelled “don’t think! JUST GO!” so of course I couldn’t wimp out and not jump so I did exactly as they said and wow, it’s such an adrenaline rush. Joling and our friend Fay contemplated for a while but finally said fuck it, and jumped as well. I’m so proud of Jo since it was her first time AND she can’t swim. We waited for her body to ascend above water but it was taking a few seconds too long and everyone started to panic. But she finally emerged and grabbed onto a rock and made it back to shore! The next day we went to a old oil mine that was dug too deep and was flooded with water. This place was super chill – you can go in for $1.50 and jump off into the quarry, kayak, swim and just chill all day. It was a great relaxing day after two days of hiking.

Debbie was coming back to meet us in Chiang Mai that night so we were waiting for her arrival. At dinner I got a message from a random person telling me that Debbie got into a motorcycle accident on her way back from Pai and that she was scraped up but okay. We were so worried waiting for her arrival, but this girl is so tough. She came back with cuts everywhere, a nasty hole in her forehead but most importantly, a great attitude. She wanted to drink! What a champ.

After a month of traveling with Deb, it was finally time for her to leave and we broke out into tears on the tuk tuk while waving goodbye. Typical girls. After she left, Jo and I made our way up to Pai by bus. No way were we going to ride a bike after Deb’s accident! We were originally supposed to stay in Pai for two nights but I stupidly booked our flight to Koh Samui a day earlier so we actually only had 18 hours. Pai is a small hippie town in the north of Thailand filled with gorgeous scenery, cute cafes and vegan restaurants. Some people say they don’t like it because its touristy but I think the tourism made the place what it is now. We explored the entire city by motorbike and ended our day with a sunset at Pai Canyon. It was filled with people but if you keep walking down the canyon you can find a secluded spot, as long as you overcome your fear of heights. We stayed at Pai Circus Hostel where they teach you circus tricks for free everyday from 5-7pm, and offer a stunning view from the infinity pool. Who said hostels aren’t cool?! We didn’t learn circus tricks but we made it back for happy hour and a group of us headed to the bar to enjoy the last few hours we had. Jo and I wanted to wake up early to watch the sunrise before catching our 7am bus but of course we failed, ended up getting too drunk and woke up at 6:42am. I never packed so quickly in my life and ran that fast in the morning. We ran for 15 minutes and made it to our bus JUST in time for a 3 hour curvy ride back to Chiang Mai. Not the best cure for a hangover but at least we made it on our flight to Koh Samui! Back to paradise we go!

Sike. It rained everyday we were there. Not just a regular storm but one of those rains where you can’t see the road ahead of you. But that helped us enjoy a very chilled time on the island where we went out just to eat and get massages for $5. So cheap we won’t be able to pay for an American massage again! On a day where it didn’t rain so hard, we went to Chawaeng Beach to explore and came across a man on his makeshift boat. Jo wanted to talk to him so we asked if we could join him and ended up talking to him for hours while helping him clean and take apart his boat. It was nothing to us – we had nothing better to do and it was fun! But he appreciated it so much he took us around the island the next day with his daughter and gave us a free tour and even helped us book a tour to Ang Thong National Park at a cheap price. Turns out, he’s also a chef at a super fancy hotel and invited us to have dinner cooked by him. I still dream about that meal – hands down the best Thai food I’ve had in Thailand! He was an amazing man and really made our time in Koh Samui more enjoyable. On our last day, we explored the island by motorbike and came across a deserted beach with cows (not your regular beach)! We met these international high school students from France and Czech, who showed us one of their favorite viewpoints that only locals knew about. We smoked a j and stared at the city from a distance. Perfect way to end Jo’s trip!

After Jo left I had to get used to being alone again. I felt the same fear as my first post about Vietnam but it disappeared the second I stepped foot on Koh Tao, my favorite destination in Thailand.

Thailand in Style

Next destination: Koh Phangan, Thailand. Originally we came here for the full moon party but with the king passing away, Thailand has been in a 30 day mourning period. No parties or loud music allowed in the country which meant no full moon party for us. There’s always next month, though!

Since there were 7 of us, we rented an Airbnb in the mountains of Koh Phangan. It’s about an hour drive outside of the main road where the ferry docks, located on top of rocks with one of the best views I’ve seen so far. When you hike down to the bottom of the rocks you can jump into the water and swim south for about 30-40 minutes to a semi-private beach or you can get some exercise in and hike over massive rocks to get there as well.

We stayed 3 nights and 4 days at this Airbnb and did close to nothing in this paradise. It was a nice change of pace from the rest of my trip so far. I didn’t have to think about packing every night or worry about locking up my belongings in the shitty hostel lockers! We just straight up chilled in our infinity pool, took naps on the hammocks, ordered food from our personal chef and did one lazy activity a day. We went on a snorkel tour where a boat picked us up from the nearby beach and dropped us off on the other end of the island where we jumped off the boat to snorkel. There were barely any fish to see there, just a bunch of sea cucumbers which look like gigantic slugs underwater. We entertained ourselves by playing underwater Rock Paper Scissors and making more bets!

The next day we decided to do something more adventurous – ride motorbikes! Deb and I have done it before but it was Steph, Ivan and Andy’s first time riding. When you ride motorbikes in Asia, especially Thailand, it’s good to play it safe and take a video of your bike so that when you return it, they can’t scam you and accuse you of breaking something that was already broken. We all did this except Ivan and of course, he was the only one to crash his bike right in front of the bike shop! Needless to say, the bike owner charged him when we returned our bikes. 5000 effing baht! At least he wasn’t too cut up and plus, he came out strong and got right back on the bike to learn again and hopefully still had a good time. We drove our bikes down the mountain to the night market and feasted on everything possible. Pad See Ew, skewers, smoothies, curry, crispy pork on rice, desserts, etc. I’m getting hungry just writing about it. The best part about night markets is how cheap all the food is! It’s going to be hard going back to America and paying ridiculous prices for the same food.

The last night of Koh Phangan was supposed to be the full moon party and we were looking to explore any type of celebration but it ended up pouring so hard there was no way we were going out. We decided to watch a movie but didn’t realize that thousands of flying ants were going to invade the rest of our house. They flew in from the open kitchen and literally covered the floor and the pool so we had to tiptoe around them. It was an interesting way to end the trip but kind of cool to see.

Next up: Khao Sok! We stayed in a bungalow and then a  peaceful lake house the day after. Debbie, Steph and I went on a jungle hike through a nearby waterfall and it was so different than what we had in mind. We thought it would be a simple hike but damn, we were so mistaken. The mud was up past our ankles and when we crossed the rivers, the current from the water was so strong we could barely lift our legs up without getting pushed over. At one point Debbie fell and our tour guide grabbed her back to land and said “you don’t want to fall, or you won’t be able to get back up!” Well obviously she was not purposely trying to fall into a waterfall! For the last stretch we hiked up to the actual waterfall which was cool, but we were so exhausted at that point we just wanted to get back to the lake house. As we were leaving the waterfall I lost my balance, fell into the water and started drifting away with the current. I reached up to grab anything to stop me, which of course happened to be a thorny branch! It’s all good though. No one died and we made it back! Just as I thought we were in the clear, I slipped on the wooden planks of the boat and busted my shin pretty badly. It’s been a month since this actually happened and my bruise is still there! Sami just HAPPENED to be filming us coming back from our hike and got it all on video. Talk about perfect timing! I discovered how clumsy I am but at least we all had a pretty good laugh about it.

This past week was so relaxing and luxurious but I’m definitely ready to go back to slummin it backpack style!

Temple running in Cambodia

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Cambodia because I didn’t do much research on the culture, food, or attractions. I’ve pretty much been following Debbie’s lead since she got here and tagging along on her plans (thanks for not complaining even though I was useless for the last few weeks Deb)! 5 more of our friends came from New York and we stayed in Siem Reap for 5 nights which I think is more than necessary if you’re not into the whole temple scene.

We explored Pub Street on two of the nights, where we pregamed with $1 tequila shots off of street carts and moved onto more $1 tequila shots in the bars. When you walk down Pub Street, your ear drums feel like they’re about to pop from the loud music blasting out of the clubs and bars. There are carts selling $1 beers, $1 shots, $2 Jager bombs, $1 crepes and $.50 BUGS. I stupidly made a bet against Ivan on our first night out and ended up losing with Andy on my team. Losing team eats a waterbug. It’s basically a GIGANTIC cockroach. I would have eaten anything else on that cart – scorpion, tarantula, cricket, you name it! But the thought of a huge waterbug going through my digestive track was so disturbing! What did it taste like? Crunchy and mushy with a hint of licorice. Obviously we weren’t eating this sober so we downed 3 shots of tequila and devoured our protein. Andy took it like a champ while I forced it down my throat, trying not to vomit. This meal is gonna bug me for the rest of my life! Ha. Ha. Ha…

“Please don’t make me eat this.”

This is what regret looks like.

That’s an effing Tarantula in yo mouth!

Yay Debbie joined in on the fun! So this is what it’s like losing to Ivan. You’d think we would have learned our lesson after this but nope, we just kept making bets with the dude who never ended up completing his own punishment!

Enough about the crawling creatures. Let’s move on to the main attraction of Cambodia – the TEMPLES. Personally I am not interested in temples. They look the same to me after a few and trust me, when you’re walking around in the sun and you’re forced to cover up out of respect for the temples, you won’t want to be looking at temples all day. We rented a tuk tuk for $15 a day and bought a three day pass for $40; a one day pass would have cost $20. We tried to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat but were unlucky that day since it was so cloudy. It was still picture perfect even though the wait was a bit anticlimactic.

We visited 3 temples on the first day and 4 more on the second day. I’m convinced that whoever created the game temple run was inspired by these temples, specifically Baphuon Temple. My favorite temple was Ta Prohm Temple because it was mostly left as it was found, partially merged with the jungle. Walking through it felt like I was traveling back in time. It also helped that it’s where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed! I didn’t watch the movie but it’s cool imagining Angelina Jolie being her badass self here.

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

Ivan playing real life temple run

That’s the tomb raider tree doe!

Ta Phrom

Temple vs. Jungle

Do it for the gram!

Flooded temple

We visited the flooded forest and floating village, Kompong Phluk, and I highly recommend it! We drove about 30 minutes outside of Siem Reap to a ferry that took us to smaller boats that weaved through the villages and flooded trees. The village is flooded for half the year during rainy season and completely dry for the other half. It was an incredible sight! There were houses on tilts and even schools on tilts where students were rowed to school every morning. It was touristy because of the persistent women selling their snacks on boats, guilting you into buying relatively expensive products for yourself and your boat rower. But comparing prices to those back at home, just take a step back and think of it as a donation to supporting a unique community.

We only got to visit Siem Reap but there are so many other cities in Cambodia I want to visit! I’ll most likely drop in again in a few months and update you guys on what else Cambodia has to offer!

Vietnam – Part 3: Hue, Hoi An & Da Lat

Time here is flying by so quickly! I can’t believe three weeks have already gone by and my trip to Vietnam has officially come to an end. The last three cities I visited were very different from one another, so I was really able to appreciate them individually.

After leaving Phong Nha we took our third sleeper bus to Hue, the home of my favorite Vietnamese noodle soup: Bun Bo Hue. It’s a spicy noodle soup with beef, pork and sometimes pig’s blood if you’re daring enough to try it. We only really had one day in this city so we packed in as much as possible. We were mainly focused on food, food and food! Hue is also known for dishes similar to dim sum. Lots of rice wraps with small dishes! The best part of Hue was how CHEAP everything was, especially the food. 

Bun Bo Hue for less than $1!

Hue style lunch for $5

The city has a lot of historical sites to visit. Spending one day here was not nearly enough to see everything. I think you’d need at least three days to get through everything, maybe even four to five if you want to go slow. Since we didn’t get much sleep the night before, we decided to take it easy and take a tuk tuk around and pick and choose what we wanted to see. We paid about $3 per person. Our tuk tuk driver took us to see the Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s home, the outside of the Citadel (because we didn’t want to pay to go in and we were being super lazy), and then finally the market place.


There’s so much more to see here, but many of the sites need to be accessed via motorbike since they’re located up a mountain. Some of the big ones are bunkers from World War II, the tombstone, and the abandoned water park. The citadel alone could take a full two days to explore!
We stayed at another homestay here, Kim’s homestay, and it’s always a cool experience staying with a local. They really want you to enjoy your experience and they’re willing to help you in any way possible. Kim recommended which restaurant to eat at and helped us set up for our motorbike ride from Hue to Hoi An for the next morning.

So the next morning we got up early and prepared ourselves for the 130 km motorbike ride. It was only our second time riding so of course we were a little nervous. Maybe we were a little too ambitious but so many people make this drive so why not try it?! The ride is about 3 hours long but it took us 7 because we are the slowest drivers ever. But also there are a bunch of things to see along the way! We stopped at Elephant Springs, where there was a gorgeous drive on a dirt road through the forest. There were a few tombstones on the side of the road which normally would be grim but these tombstones were mini temples that were beautifully decorated.

Mega man over here

There is a drive through the mountains on a road named Hai Van Pass. The views of Da Nang are unbeatable from this mountain. We were driving through clouds so some parts were extremely foggy and a little chilly but it made the experience even cooler. Check out the time lapse video below!

When we drove through Da Nang it was rush hour which means there are way too many bikes on the road for our level of expertise. Both of us were super nervous, especially at the intersections with cars and bikes coming at all different directions towards us. There were parts where you just have to move forward into a roundabout even though 20 bikes are coming right at you. At one interesection, there were two bikes in Debbie’s way. One of them moved but the second bike wasn’t budging. She took my advice for walking in Hanoi a bit too literally and told herself not to stop going forward and ended up hitting the back of the lady’s bike. LOL. Luckily we are turtles and we’re only going 5 miles per hour so no one got hurt, but that lady was so annoyed she didn’t say anything. She just grilled Deb and drove off. By the time we got to Hoi An I was so exhausted I didn’t even have the energy to hold my bike up after breaking. We dropped it at least 5 times each during the ride – those things are so heavy!!
Hoi An was so much better than I expected it to be! It’s the only city in Vietnam I could imagine living in but it would be dangerous cause I would spend so much time shopping. This city is known for their skilled tailors – you can bring a picture of whatever you want made and get it made right from the source for a small fraction of what you’d pay at a store. You can also choose from their styles and customize it to your liking. The ambiance of the city is what I loved most. There are lanterns hanging all around the old town, with a river running through it. You can release wishing lighted lanterns into the river. During the full moon, the river is filled with lanterns but we weren’t there for a full moon. It was still gorgeous! We stayed an extra day because we loved it there but also we had to leave ASAP or we might have spent all our money there.

We took our last sleeper bus in Vietnam from Hoi An to Dalat. It was a total of 13 hours travel time! It was fine except for our transfer time in Nha Trang. We were told the bus would come in a minute but ended up coming 2 hours later. At 4 in the morning that’s not the most ideal situation. But then again when you travel for so cheap what can you expect!

Da Lat is located on a mountain so the weather was super refreshing compared to every other city, besides Sapa. Finally we were able to walk around without being drenched in our own stanky sweat. We stayed at an awesome hostel called Dalat Alan Hostel where we met our personal tour guide, Happy. He planned out 2 full days for us and really took care of everything we wanted to see. Our first day consistened of riding through the countryside via motorbike to see viewpoints, another waterfall, a temples, a silk factory, a coffee factory, and a rice wine factory with a bunch of animals (kind of randomly paired together).

Everyone meet Happy!

Arabica Coffee Beans

Weasels that eat the coffee and poop it out for us to drink

Our silkworm pets

Behind Elephant Waterfall

Fat Buddha – NY’s not the only place with one!

Happy took us to an incredibly unique bar called 100 Roofs Bar where guests enter through the basement and climb through what felt like 10 different floors to get to the rooftop. Most floors were pitch dark so it was hard to find your way, especially when there are 3 or more different paths to take on each floor. The walls were carved with tribal symbols and faces. I’m not going to upload any pictures because it doesn’t do this place justice – you really need to experience it for yourself!

Our last day in Vietnam was personally the scariest day where I really felt like I conquered my fears. We went canyoning; it’s an activity where you’re attached to a rope and you slowly drop yourself off the side of very steep rocks. We were able to practice on soil which made us pretty confident but the actual rocks were super slippery and the shoes they provided had no grasp at all! I was slipping even when we hiked up the mountain. Debbie went down first and she swung slightly to the left at one point, but got back up and made it down gracefully. I was next up and was nowhere near as graceful as she was! I slipped at the same spot but it honestly felt like someone tugged my rope to the left as hard as they could. I flew to the left, completely losing my footing and fell on my back, hitting my head on the rock. Thank GOD I was wearing a helmet cause that would have been bad. I was pretty shaken up after that so the rest of the way down was basically me slowly sliding down on my side. The girl who went after me cried which honestly made me feel better cause at least someone was on the same page as me! The next canyoning task was down a waterfall and they call it the washing machine because you’re body is spinning out of control from the water hitting you so hard. I think our guides saw how much we sucked so they did not recommend this one to us. I happily declined attempting it!

Naive and confident


 We moved on to cliff diving and ziplining, which I was more comfortable with or so I thought. There was a 20 feet dive into the water that didn’t seem so bad from afar but when you look down, there was a huge rock in the way so it felt like you had to jump very far to avoid becoming a squashed tomato. Everyone else went before me but I was being a little bitch and couldn’t get myself to jump. The tour guide probably screamed “READY? 1. 2. 3!” 6 times before I could do it. I’m more afraid of heights than I thought! But after jumping, it felt awesome. I volunteered to go first for ziplining. He told us we had to run ourselves off the cliff and then start flying. I didn’t know how many steps to run off so I only took 3 strides and lifted my legs but 3 strides was not enough cause I ended up banging my knee on the rocks twice. Ha that was embarrassing but what’s new? It was still so fun and I would recommend it to those that want to experience this thrill. 

When we got out of the water, our tour guide asked us if we had gotten any souvenirs for the day. We didn’t know what he was talking about until Debbie felt a sting on her legs and realized she had brought back 4 LEECHES! They were smaller than what we imagined they would look like but regardless they were gross. Way to warn us about the leeches, dude.

Next stop is Cambodia with more friends visiting!

Vietnam – Part 2: Ha Long BAE & Phong Nha

1 week – 4 cities – 650 miles later…

It’s been one hell of a week and Vietnam continues to amaze me. I don’t know why I assumed that all cities in Vietnam would be similar before I got here. Each city has been such a nice change of scenery and pace that it’s difficult to choose a highlight.

Debbie arrived this week and I’m so glad we got to experience everything together. It’s been awesome traveling alone but just as awesome with a friend who is equally as down to do everything.

We started off in Cat Ba Island, which is a backpacker alternative to the more touristy Ha Long Bay cruise trip. You are able to get to Ha Long Bay easily from Cat Ba. The island itself isn’t anything spectacular but getting to the island and purchasing excursions on the island ends up being cheaper than purchasing a 1, 2, or 3 day Ha Long Bay cruise from Hanoi, depending on what you choose to do. We decided to do a 1.5 day tour which included staying overnight on a fishing farm in the middle of the water, and a full day cruise that included kayaking, jumping off the boat and swimming to beautiful beaches, and exploring monkey island. We were told that we would be able to do a night swim with plankton that glow when you touch them so we were instantly sold! But we were lied to and it wasn’t even the right season to do it. And apparently we aren’t even allowed to swim at night in the bay because there are too many fish that could hurt us. Scammed us hard but it was still really fun!

We were picked up by an old man and his daughter on a small makeshift boat. They spoke no English – no surprise there. It was actually nice because then Deb & I were able to appreciate the nature and scenery of Ha Long Bay at sunset. We didn’t know what to expect of the fishing farm. When we got there, there was a family watching TV. They awkwardly greeted us and showed us to our rooms. Then they asked us to join them in watching a Vietnamese drama. They spoke very little English. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t feeling this place at first. The house was a floating house that took the father 12 years to build and make into a business. Around the home were different sized fish grouped together by squares. 30 minutes after we arrived the father started feeding the fish and the son showed us a massive 160 lb grouper fish that lived underneath the wooden floorboards of their living room. We asked to go kayaking and watched the rest of the sun fall beneath the rocks before we headed back to eat an awesome home cooked meal. 

This place was such an authentic experience and it definitely grew on me even though not everything went so smoothly. I wanted to take a nice, hot shower after a long day of traveling but after putting on body wash and shampoo, the water RAN OUT! That’s definitely something you don’t have to worry about in America. I never thought of saving water because if I used it all, my family would have to spend 25 minutes pulling water from the bay and running it through a purifier to be able to shower again. So I stood in the cold killing mosquitoes for 25 minutes, waiting for water to return. What an interesting night. Meanwhile Deb finally felt her jet lag and was sleeping so comfortably a few feet away. When she woke up from her nap, she decided to sleep outside on the outside furniture so I followed her. We watched the stars, saw two shooting stars, and fell asleep to the sound of water crashing on the platform.

The next morning we were picked up by a big boat that brought us to the center of Ha Long Bay where we kayaked under rock formations into lagoons, got back on the boat to dive into the water, and then stopped at Monkey Island for an unexpected hike.

We were so tired from all the activities we took a nap prior to arriving to Monkey Island. So when we got to Monkey Island, we were very disoriented and one of the workers yelled, “for hike, go up mountain, otherwise stay here!” We assumed the monkeys were on the mountain so we decided to try hiking in our sandals. Everyone else was doing it so why not?! Not a good idea. Especially because the monkeys weren’t even on the mountain; they were on the beach. Another fail! So we start on this hike thinking it would be easy but there were sharp rocks the entire way up and everyone’s sandals were flippin and floppin. The rocks were so sharp, one of our friend’s sandals got caught every few steps and he had to constantly pull them out. Not gonna lie – that was pretty entertaining!

The view up top was awesome though! Can’t complain because we all made it down safely.

Next stop? PHONG NHA! This place really blew my mind. Maybe because this city still has undetonated land mines?! But it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for a good reason. The city’s main attraction is the Phong Nha National Park which is home to hundreds of caves, underground rivers, forests, and the largest cave in the world – Son Doong. On our first day we explored Paradise Cave and the Botantical Garden. Paradise Cave is one of the caves that are open to the public. Amazing feeling to be walking through something that is 400 million years old. We weren’t too excited about the Botantical Gardens because it sounded like we were going to just walk and stare at flowers but it ended up being the highlight of our day. There was another surprise hike, but this time it was through a waterfall that you could jump into! The best part about exploring Vietnam is that there are rarely ever any rules on what you can or cannot do – there are no guards stopping you from fully enjoying the nature.

The second day we went to the Dark Caves and this is the day Deb and I learned how to ride a motorbike! We were nervous cause we never rode for more than a few minutes. 3 minutes into the ride, one of our buddies loses balance and dropped the bike on his foot – luckily he was fine but that shook us up a bit. 

The Dark Cave is an adventure seeker’s heaven. You start the day off by ziplining over a river, then swimming into the cave and jumping into mud that is up to your neck, then kayaking to the last zip line where you get to let go and fall into the water. There is a little cove with mud that everyone gets stuck in – in a good way! When you lean on the mud, your body naturally floats from all the salt and you find it really hard to stand up right again. I thought it would be a good idea to hold my knees and cradle my body back and forth so I could try to do a front flip. Nope. Not the best ideas person. I ended up rocking too hard and fell face forward, with my mouth open, into the mud. At least I got a very perfect beard painted on my face. Needless to say nobody else wanted to try after that!

Debbie was really nervous for the dropping zipline, and it turns out she had a good reason to be! The first time we were supposed to go together, the zipline bar handles were too tall for her so she couldn’t get a good grasp. Our friend went after us and was swinging her legs back and forth so she could go faster. Debbie thought that looked cool so she tried it on our second run. She swung her legs twice, lost her grip and dropped into the water 3 seconds after we went. Ended the day with a splash! Check out her Instagram for the video.

We really sped through Nam this week. Although it was fast, it was still so much fun and we got to see everything we wanted to! There’s too much to fit into one post so wait up for part 2!